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Plumber History: The Science Of Plumbing, From The Chemistry Of Metals To The Need For Slope In Drains And Vents | Portland, OR


In order to do plumbing right and diagnose existing problems in your home’s pipes, the plumbers at Pilot Plumbing & Drain, serving the Portland, OR area, have to have a mind for science. They deal with water pressure and flow, the dynamics of drains, the physics of valves and flushing toilets, and other principles that often have surprising influences on how your home plumbing works. Even the issues that arise when connecting different types of pipes like copper and cast iron are part of our plumbers’ expertise, helping you to avoid problems later on from the subtler principles of plumbing. This understanding of how plumbing works serves them well when designing and installing new plumbing in your home, and also helps them look at existing plumbing and diagnose problems whose cause isn’t immediately obvious, or sometimes just look at a particular plumbing situation and say, “that isn’t right…”

When Different Metals Touch, Problems Can Arise

Different materials have been used in the pipes plumbers installed over the years, each with its own properties, issues, and lifetime. Cast iron, brass, copper, and galvanized steel have each been popular, along with different plastics called PVC, CPVC, and PEX. It’s a lot to remember how to connect each of these plumbing types to another when upgrading or repairing your home’s plumbing, as they require different soldering, gluing, and other connection types and the work needs to meet a variety of standards for safety and durability and other properties. One important requirement is to keep dissimilar metals away from each other, either connecting or even touching, because of a principle called galvanic corrosion. This is a chemical interaction between the metals that can result in accelerated corrosion and premature failure, clearly something to avoid. Not every pairing is big trouble, but it’s an important enough concern that mixed metals are generally avoided unless the person installing them has specific knowledge about the metals in the pipes being used.

When Your Toilet Won’t Flush Right Because of Birds

When the water in your sink or toilet won’t go down, that’s where you look for the problem, right? Something’s clogging the lines between the fixture and the sewer line in the basement. That’s right most of the time, but there is an exception, one that your professional will check if things just aren’t clearing up. A gurgling sound as the water goes down can also be a clue that something’s actually wrong up above, on the roof, as well as or instead of below. Up there is a vent pipe, which helps to avoid creating a vacuum problem as the water flows down the pipes due to gravity. There’s a simple way to illustrate the issue. Dip a straw into water, then put your finger over the top. Pull the straw out and notice that the water is still in the straw. Without being able to draw in air to replace the water, the water just hangs around. The same goes for your drains if the vent pipe is clogged. Birds’ nests are common reasons for the pipe to be blocked or at least limited, causing puzzling drain problems below. Other issues could be material that’s been blown in by the wind or a damaged vent pipe. A clogged vent pipe will typically cause multiple problems in your home including backups and smells and is actually an urgent reason to call a plumber.

Level Drain Pipes Will Cause Issues

Our natural sense of geometry will cause amateur plumbers, and sometimes others, to install drain and vent plumbing in a home so it’s nice and level. When you think about it, though, the issue might even be apparent to a non-plumber: how is the wastewater going to flow? There will be some success as more water comes from above, but standing wastewater is a bad thing, producing nasty gases and other effects. Plumbers know that there’s a right way to slope drain pipes, and they’ll install them so they meet that spec. Too little, you get standing water and waste. Too much slope, though, and the water tends to flow out faster, leaving solid waste in the lines to, you guessed it, make a nasty smell and create clogs. If you have trouble with your home’s drains, with nasty smells more common than not, you could have pipes that weren’t installed to meet these standards. This even happens in new construction, unfortunately.

Vent Pipes Have the Same Slope Issue

There are lots of vent pipes in your Portland, OR area home that provide relief to your drain system so material can flow downhill without creating a vacuum problem. The thing is, these pipes have water vapor in them and so they actually have to drain, too, or the condensing water vapor will accumulate as water in the vent lines. By the way, the reason that clogged vent pipes can be an emergency is that they help manage the sewer gas that develops in your drain lines, a gas that is hazardous if it accumulates in your home. This is also a good reason to keep air intakes such as for air conditioners away from your vent pipes, to avoid an odor problem that your HVAC professional might find puzzling. Finally, when vent pipes are clogged and drain systems back up, this can bring the waste matter into the vent system where it should never be. When the drains clear, this material will remain, leading to an expensive vent line cleanup.

When You Call Our Plumbers, They Bring a Wealth of Knowledge

Pilot Plumbing & Drain, serving the Portland, OR area, is proud of our expert team of plumbers who understand the science of plumbing as well as the practice, and know that it takes years of training and mentoring to learn how to do their job so it stands the test of time. Call us for professional plumbing services and expert plumbing advice.

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